Some of you probably aren’t of a mind to listen right now, but Coach Richt made a few comments in his post-game presser worth citing as points of reference to why Georgia wound up on the short end of a 49-31 score.
On Auburn’s on-side kick to open the second half: “We alerted [the players] at the half. The dilemma for our special teams is if they sit at the tee and watch the ball too long when all those guys are flying down the field at 100 miles an hour and they’re supposed to get in position to block, they can’t make the block. Auburn’s kickoff coverage team was one of the bigger differences in the game. And with them getting the on-side kick to start the second half and take the lead . . . we were hoping to get the ball first and put them in a position to be behind. We didn’t get good field position off our kickoff returns, and their kickoff coverage team tonight was the best we’ve played all season.”
It didn’t get much attention from the broadcast crew, but I think Richt is spot on about this. Georgia blocked very poorly for Boykin and didn’t seem prepared for the speed of Auburn’s kickoff coverage team. Given the number of times Auburn kicked off, that was kind of a big deal. And I’ll get back to it shortly, but the halftime alert about a potential onside kick highlights a problem that has plagued this team in every loss this season, poor focus.
On biggest differences in the game: “We just couldn’t stop them. That was the biggest difference. We didn’t continue to score, and that’s all there is to it. Auburn was very efficient in what they were doing on offense. It’s very difficult to stop a quarterback who can run like that. The only way to outnumber a run game like that is to bring both safeties to the line of scrimmage. When you do that, he throws the ball too well. Cam (Newton) is a true dual threat and a tough kid. They have other good players that played well today, but he’s the difference.”
Newton is the best player in college football and I don’t think Auburn wins yesterday without him. (Neither did they, obviously.) But the reason that Richt and Grantham were faced with the bad choices they had in defending Cam is that their defense lacks a presence in the middle of the d-line. That hurt them repeatedly throughout the game. I don’t know if Geathers or Bean will make a difference next year, or if the staff needs to be out beating the JUCO bushes to find a nose tackle, but finding a difference maker on the line has to be Job One in the off-season.
On Auburn playing well despite the week’s distractions: “As a coach and for players, when you go to practice and the meeting room and you’re in your complex, it’s kind of a haven for you. It’s a place where you can focus on the task at hand. When you’re surrounded by guys focused on the same task it’s a good medicine. When there are things swirling around that you cannot control, you have a chance to enjoy playing the game you love.”
I touched on this last night, and for a game that went much like I thought it would, it sure had its sense of the surreal, courtesy of Cam and Cecil Newton. (Danielson made much the same observation, in the middle of all the tongue bathing he and Uncle Verne were lavishing on Cam.) I confess that I don’t understand the “no comment” approach Auburn took in the last two days before the game. Was it gamesmanship? If so, I doubt the Georgia coaches were taken in by it. Was it simply a case of the school trying to get control of the story by refusing to respond to every question or rumor, as Ivan Maisel suggests? If that’s the case, good luck with that. The story is only going to get bigger with every Auburn win and the school stonewalling the media isn’t going to tamp down on the frenzy to get to the bottom of the story.
But what you have to give Auburn’s coaches big, big credit for is something Georgia lacked at key moments in the game. And I’ll let Justin Houston have the last word on that.
“They had over 100 yards of rushing just by running the reverse,” Georgia linebacker Justin Houston said. “That is us blowing our assignments. We weren’t where we were supposed to be, and they capitalized on our mistakes.
“Some guys aren’t as focused as they need to be. That hurt today and has hurt us all season.”